Press Releases EASPD launches Lisbon Declaration for Inclusive Education

EASPD launches Lisbon Declaration for Inclusive Education

On 1st December, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) published the Lisbon Declaration on Inclusive Education. The Declaration aims to support efforts to make inclusive education a much bigger reality in Europe and provides a number of recommendations to European institutions, national policy makers, support service providers; educators; trainers and teachers.

The Lisbon Declaration builds on the previous work of the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), including the findings of EASPD’s 2020 Barometer of Inclusive Education and the contributions of the ‘To Inclusive Education and BEYOND’ project, the declaration highlights the barriers, opportunities and recommendations on making schools and education, inclusive. Inclusive education aims to provide an educational setting where students with and without disabilities come together and learn. The document stresses that to achieve this goal, it is important for key stakeholders to come together and work co-productively.

Despite education being a competence of Member States the European Institutions can play a key role in supporting Member States to implement policies that can help achieve inclusion in schools. Some tools include the European Semester, the EU Budget and the Open Method of Coordination, which can be used to share promising practices, monitor the state of inclusive education and provide funding opportunities for inclusion.

Support service providers play an intrinsic role in achieving inclusive education as well. Among some of the recommendations in the Declaration, is to create open resource centres and share the knowledge and expertise of special education providers with mainstream education providers. Another recommendation is for “special schools” to open up and transform themselves to become mainstream schools.

Educators, teachers and trainers cannot be left behind in the transition towards inclusion and they require access to training, resources and support. The Lisbon Declaration further stresses the importance of implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in all learning environments. UDL refers to a framework that is used to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. It is largely an inclusive methodology to improve learning experiences for all.

Presenting the Declaration, Maya Doneva, Secretary General EASPD stated that “transforming our education systems towards inclusion comes with challenges, but none more that overcoming existing attitudes and approaches towards inclusive education, including in the education system. This comes with legislative and monetary action, it also requires changes to mindsets and training which is what our Lisbon Declaration sets out to promote”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the challenges in achieving inclusive education. The most prominent issue is the delayed learning for students with disabilities. The forced closure of schools during the lockdown period pushed children to study from home, but for many the lack of digital accessibility meant they were left behind. Specifically, within the education sector it is important that the digital way of learning is also able to adapt to the specific needs of students with disabilities. The Lisbon Declaration encourages stakeholders to utilise the opportunities of digital tools and tech and provides recommendations on how to maximise the opportunities that come with an increasingly digital way of living.

On Covid-19, Rachel Vaughan – Head of Operations at EASPD- states “As we look to rebuild our societies after the COVID-19 pandemic, schools should stand at the heart of the recovery, equipping learners with knowledge and skills to contribute and participate in their communities during the digital and green transitions. This requires targeted action to tackle the strong digital gap experienced by many children and persons with disabilities.”

The challenges are significant but not discouraging! EASPD and its members strongly believe that together we can make education ensure high quality and inclusion for all. By creating a system that adapts to the needs of every individual learner, Europe would break away from an outdated and regressive educational system.

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